It’s 2018. You need to maximize your SEO efforts if you want to succeed online.
Let’s face it. If you don’t, your business will be left behind.
SEO is a top priority for marketers. In fact, 61% say it’s their main focus when it comes to inbound marketing.
They’re all doing it. Why aren’t you?
Ignoring it is basically ignoring sales.
But where should you begin?
Simple. Start by assessing your site’s current SEO.
The easiest way to do this is with an SEO audit. See how your current site ranks and assess what you can do to improve it.
It may sound intensive and perhaps a little scary for beginners, but I’m going to walk you through exactly what needs to be done.
In one hour and with the help of a few tools, you can do this very easily. The time it takes is minimal, but its impact can be huge.
But before we get there, you need to understand the fundamentals of the SEO audit.
What is an SEO audit?
You want your content to be relevant to the people who show up to your site.
The old SEO tactics won’t cut it. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing, setting up multiple pages for different keyword variants, and trying to use multiple microsites to drive traffic.
Within the past decade, criteria and ranking factors have changed dramatically.
Sites that are mobile-friendly and optimized for user intent are favored.
Each accessible page of your site is crawled to figure out whether your site offers useful and legitimate content.
While your site is being crawled, search engines are also checking to figure out how secure, fast, and easy-to-use it is.
And then each page receives a rank, which determines how high it shows up on the search engine results page (SERP) for people searching related keywords.
Long story short, that’s what SEO is all about.
However, SEO is constantly changing.
Each search engine has its own algorithm, and algorithms get improved or regularly altered with updates.
But algorithms aren’t the only thing you need to worry about.
Your competitors are racing to a better ranking than you.
Old content needs to be updated to remain relevant.
And as rules change, you need to be able to adapt to new SEO tactics and avoid red flags.
Worst of all, something on your website might be horribly broken, disrupting the flow of qualified traffic to your site.
This is why a regular SEO audit is necessary for keeping up with search engine demand.
When you conduct an audit, you are checking the health of your website.
Since search algorithms and technology can change at a rapid pace, you want to perform mini-audits monthly.
But they shouldn’t take the place of a full SEO audit. Those should take place every 4-6 months or after a major change in your website.
Personally, I like to do full SEO audits quarterly and mini-audits monthly.
Before we start, let’s consolidate the most important parts of the audit:
What are the key elements of an SEO audit?
There are three key factors to look at during an SEO audit:
- Back-end factors such as hosting and indexing
- Front-end factors such as content, keywords, and metadata
- Link quality and outside references
Sometimes, you won’t have the time to address each pain point.
So, when deciding which audit insights are worth taking action on, I like to use the 80/20 rule.
The most important part of your site’s SEO is the part that your incoming traffic actually sees.
That’s all washed away if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, though.
With the introduction of the mobile-first index, you need to make sure you understand how your site performs on mobile to ensure proper placement on SERPs.
Keeping this in mind (and checking to ensure your site is mobile-optimized) will help evaluate where you stand once you complete your one-hour mini-audit.
Here are the eight steps you need to take to perform your SEO site audit in less than an hour.
1. Begin your audit with a crawl (5 minutes)
The most important part of the SEO audit is the crawl.
Before you do anything else, start a crawl of your website. You can use tools like:
These are some of the leading tools in the industry that will provide you with a great foundation to get started.
Keep in mind that the free version of Screaming Frog contains limitations, including a maximum crawl limit of 500 URLs.
Not only do crawlers find various errors such as broken links, bad keywords, poor images, and page title issues, but they also identify duplicate content, unlinked pages, and excess redirects.
How to set up your crawl
For this example, I’ll use the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool. For my test site, I’ll use Kissmetrics.
Start by downloading Screaming Frog and opening the application.
Explore the criteria of the crawl by clicking Configuration and Spider on the toolbar. If you are a paying customer, you can change the crawl criteria.
Click OK and type in your website.
Click start, and your crawl will begin.
Crawling is useful for identifying duplicate content, unlinked pagination pages, and excess redirects.
You can also get an idea of your “crawl budget” from Google Search Console. The crawl budget will show which pages Google is crawling and how frequently it crawls your site.
Here is an example crawl budget showing 32 daily crawls:
What does this all mean?
It gives you a glimpse into how the Googlebot is crawling your site.
Manually search your site
By doing a few Google searches, you can quickly approximate how well your website is ranking.
How many of your pages appear in relevant search results?
Does your site appear first when you search for it by name?
Overall, where does your site appear in the results?
To figure out which pages are actually being crawled, you can use a “site:rootdomain” search to see what shows up.
Here’s an example of this concept in action.
Missing pages don’t automatically mean that your site is un-crawlable, but it’s useful to understand what’s happening behind the scenes.
Your website doesn’t need to be at the very top of your searches either. It will ideally show up in the middle of the first page or higher.
Get your current estimated SEO score
SEO SiteCheckup breaks loads of data into categories and shows you an estimated SEO score.
This can help you:
- Identify your most commonly-used keywords.
- Check whether sitemap and robots.txt are available for your site.
- Show you any broken links your page has.
If your site is connecting to social media profiles, SEO SiteCheckup will indicate that.
And if your site is compressing and caching, that will factor into the data used in estimating your SEO score.
Malware and phishing activity is also taken into account and displayed in the report.
If you don’t have a mobile device on hand, the tool even gives you access to a mobile view of your website.
Use this tool to figure out where you need to focus your attention.
2. Make sure only one version of your site is browseable (5 minutes)
Your site needs to work with all permutations of the same URL.
If your website has multiple “versions” of itself, you are sending search engines a mixed message about how to crawl your site.
Basically, the crawlers don’t know which one is the right one.
And if search engines don’t even know how to show your site to prospective traffic, your site’s SEO ranking will be negatively impacted.
This could be a mobile and desktop version warring with each other.
Or it could be the incongruity between a duplicate “https” version and a non-”https” version hurting its SEO ranking.
The impact of an HTTP vs. HTTPS on a site’s SEO has always been a hotly-contested debate in the SEO community.
Some sites that use AdSense for a revenue stream have seen a decrease in revenue after making the switch to HTTPS.
For example, Crunchify’s revenue decreased 10% after switching to an HTTPS site.
However, it seems that websites without SSL protection are being deprecated on Google SEO moving forward.
Google is even taking steps to make it more known which sites have SSL protection and which do not. Chrome is marking pages as “Not secure” to make it clearer.
With this recent change from Google, it seems you will need to make sure that your website only uses “https.”
3. Conduct on-page SEO checks (10 minutes)
When evaluating your site and the results from your crawl, there are many things you need to check to ensure that your site is correctly optimized.
To start, look for duplicate pages, headers, and title tags.
If you’ve published a lot of content with similar themes, like me, some seemingly-unrelated content will show up in your crawl.
That’s okay. You’re looking for duplicates of the same content.
You can use a tool such as Copyscape to help assess potential SEO problems arising from duplicate content.
From there, closely examine a few key criteria that Google evaluates in their rankings.
Page Titles and Title Tags
A title tag is an HTML code that relays to search engines the title of the page. This information will be displayed on SERPs.
It looks something like this:
You’ll want to make sure these are relevant to the content found on your page. The content should also be positioned in a way that answers what your target audience is seeking.
The optimal length for title tags is between 56-60 characters.
You can use a pixel width checker to make sure that your title isn’t causing truncation.
Although your meta description doesn’t affect your ranking, it still is incredibly important.
You should make sure your meta description draws in your customer. It should be compelling, engaging, and give a taste of what the user will find on the page.
Google recently expanded the limit for descriptions from 160 to 320, which now provides you with even more real estate to draw in a click.
You’ll want to make sure your content is organized, with a clear hierarchy on the page.
That way, it will be easy for Google to analyze your site and index it for search.
For example, in this post about social proof, it’s included twice in the first 100 words.
This helps Google understand what the post focuses on.
But don’t stop there.
There are plenty of other places that you should insert your keyword to impact your listing’s ranking.
While keyword stuffing will penalize you, you can still be strategic about where you place your keywords on the page.
Overall, on-page SEO checks are incredibly important, but they are only one part of your overarching SEO strategy.
4. Manage your internal and external links (10 minutes)
I’ve mentioned that sites with logical hierarchies have improved SEO rankings.
That’s why it’s important to check your internal and external links.
Often web pages can be deleted or moved, which can result in broken links on your site.
But don’t worry. You don’t have to do this manually.
While both tools are very easy to use and simple, I’ll use Integrity as an example.
Once you download it, add your URL in the text bar at the top of the page and click “Go.”
Then the tool will begin testing all the links found on your site and provide you with the results.
In the top-left corner, you can see a snapshot report outlining how many links were checked and how many were considered bad.
Depending on the size of your site and how many links you have, you might consider viewing the results by link, page, status, or flat view to help you comprehend the results.
You’ll want to go to your site and change any links marked in the red shading with the “404 not found” label. These can negatively impact your SEO.
Google does score clicks from internal and external links differently, although both have their purpose in improving your SEO.
5. Check your site speed (10 minutes)
People are impatient. Google knows this.
Your customers don’t want to wait around. The longer your page takes to load, the higher the chance your customer will bounce.
That’s why they are going to take into account site speed when assessing your rank. This change was recently announced and will begin in July 2018.
So how should you prepare?
You need to check your site speed. And Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights
Google’s PageSpeed Insights provides:
- A quick glimpse into your site’s speed
- How it is performing against other sites
- Recommendations to improve your speed
First, go to PageSpeed Insights to get your report.
After typing in your URL and clicking analyze, Google will provide you with your speed and optimization rating for both mobile and desktop.
You can toggle back and forth between mobile and desktop by using the two options at the top of the page.
But what do you do with all this new information?
Well, if your site speed is lacking, don’t fret. Google provides optimization recommendations for you to implement and improve your speed.
Google will outline just what you need to do to get better.
6. Leverage your analytics and compare site metrics (10 minutes)
What you want to figure out here is whether your analytics service (e.g., Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, etc.) is reporting live metric data.
If it is, your code is installed correctly.
If not, your code is not installed correctly and needs to be fixed.
If you’re using Google Analytics, you want the tracker code to be placed above the header of each web page.
Once you have an analytics service up and running, compare the metric data to the results of your earlier “site:rootdomain” search.
The number of pages showing in your metric data should be comparatively similar to the number of pages from the “site:rootdomain” search.
If not, certain pages aren’t properly accepting crawl requests.
Check your bounce rate
Google Analytics can be helpful when assessing your page’s bounce rate. You want your bounce rate to be low for it to impact your ranking positively.
A high bounce rate means that people aren’t finding what they are looking for on your site. This means you might have to go back and make sure the content is optimized for your audience.
You can check your bounce rate by logging into your Google Analytics account and clicking on Audiences > Overview.
Compare metrics with The MozBar
In addition, you can use Moz’s tool called The Mozbar to benchmark between pages.
The MozBar is a tool that gives you various SEO details of any web page or search engine results page.
The toolbar adds an overlay to your browser which has a number of functions.
For example, MozBar can be used to highlight different types of links that you view.
This is useful on its own, but it also lets you compare link metrics on or between pages.
It also comes with robust search tools to make your life easy.
With it, you can create custom searches by location, down to the city.
Page Authority is also supported by the MozBar.
It ranks each specific page from 1 to 100 in terms of how well it will rank on search engine results pages.
When doing an SEO audit, having a tool like this helps you quickly take the temperature of your site’s relationship with search engines.
The less guesswork you have to do, the better quality your SEO audit will be.
With version 3, you can even monitor social media activity.
7. Check your off-site SEO and perform a backlink audit (10 minutes)
Backlinks are critical for SEO success.
This way, Google and other search engines will know that your page is particularly relevant and that other users will find it useful.
Remember that hyperlinks are not the only thing crawlers look for in off-site SEO.
Your site is also crawled for brand mentions. This is why it’s pivotal for you to pay attention to what’s happening both on and off your site.
Perform your backlink audit
Use a tool such as Ahrefs to perform a backlink audit and assess the kind of backlinks you have going to your site.
Backlink audits are helpful because:
- You can assess your current link profile and see how it is affecting your site.
- You can identify areas where you can focus on getting more high-value links.
- You can assess your competitors’ number of backlinks and work to outperform them.
But don’t just stop with your site’s backlink audit.
Your competitors were busy upping their own SEO capability while you were sleeping. Now, they rank above you on your most important search terms.
This is where a tool like SEMrush comes in.
SEMrush is a tool that lets you see what keywords other sites are ranking for. It also shows what backlinks are going to those sites.
Basically, you want to explore your competitors’ backlinks and see how they compare to your own.
There are a variety of tools that let you do this if you don’t want to use SEMrush.
The Ahrefs Domain Comparison isn’t free, but there is a seven-day trial priced at $7.
In addition to checking backlinks, you should also be checking keywords.
What keywords are your competitors ranking for?
This SEO audit procedure is useful for figuring out key strategic info about where your competitor is killing you across SERPs.
You want to take this info and implement it on your website to counter your competitors.
Make sure you’re engaging social media
Social media is a conduit for consistent backlinks and engagement. You can use it to support your SEO efforts.
You want to figure out which additional social media platforms are frequented by your target audience.
Simply put, social media can improve your SEO by:
- Increasing the number of your backlinks. Those who discover your content on social media might be more likely to link to it.
- Increasing brand awareness, which can help with search queries including your brand’s name.
Social media is an opportunity to increase traffic and mentions beyond what people are searching for on a search engine.
Social media saturation is also simpler than putting together a link-building campaign.
Use the Facebook Sharing Debugger to see what your web content looks like when shared on Facebook.
This tool also allows you to check your Open Graph tags.
Search engine optimizers debate the many different tools you could use to conduct an SEO audit.
But there’s one thing they all agree on: you need to audit your SEO performance to keep up.
Search engine algorithms, best practices, market trends, and competitors are always on the move.
Is your website up-to-date?
The one-hour SEO checklist helps you make those quick adjustments in between major SEO audits so that you can pivot your strategy quickly and address issues.
Use Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool to begin your audit with a crawl.
Eliminate duplicate content with Copyscape.
Make sure your website doesn’t have duplicate versions, search your own site to see what results appear, and conduct on-page SEO checks.
Monitor your site analytics through Google Analytics or download the MozBar for quick access to metrics.
Check your off-site SEO, scout the competition, and make sure you’re engaging social media platforms.
When you’re done, reassess your SEO strategy and build an encompassing brand strategy around it.
The more you fill your website and social media presence with valuable and well-organized content, the further you’ll push your most relevant search terms.
If you’re consistent, your SEO ranking will take off like never before.
What technical SEO elements do you review regularly?